Have you heard the many news stories about Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British research firm that harvested information from the Facebook accounts of millions of Americans with the intent to influence voters? I am a casual Facebook user and this breach of trust has prompted me to delete all the apps that use Facebook to authenticate my identity!

If you haven’t had the bejesus scared out of you by Facebook, read this article by Commonsense.org to understand why neglecting to protect your kid’s privacy can have serious consequences. Here is an excerpt from their blog.

If you knew what was really out there — online predators, identity thieves, data miners — you’d lock up the internet and throw away the key.

The truth is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The internet is so woven into our lives, we need to be aware of the worst-case scenarios that can strike when we’re unprepared. Below are a few of those scary things that can and do happen. But with some eyes and ears to the ground, they are totally preventable.

Your kid could be spied on. Smart toys including My Friend Cayla, Hello Barbie, and CloudPets are designed to learn and grow with your kid. Cool, right? Unfortunately, many of these toys have privacy problems. As the 2015 data breach of Vtech’s InnoTab Max uncovered, hackers specifically target kids because they offer clean credit histories and unused Social Security numbers that they can use for identity theft. These toys also collect a lot of information about your kid, and they aren’t always clear about when they do it and how they use it.

  • Protect yourself. Make sure you buy a toy that has a good privacy policy that you understand. Only provide required information, not the optional stuff they ask for, and turn off the toy when it’s not being used.

Your kid could get accused of a crime. Everyone has the right to privacy, especially in their own home. But home assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Mattel Aristotle are designed to butt their noses into conversations. These devices collect — and store — untold amounts of data. It’s unclear what the companies do with the extraneous “noise” they pick up. And if it’s subpoenaed, they might have to hand it over. Say your kid jokes about terrorism or something else illegal; if there’s an investigation into those activities, the companies might have to cough up the transcripts. In Arkansas, a prosecutor asked for a murder suspect’s Echo smart speaker in case its information could shed light on the crime. The suspect agreed to hand over the recordings, and Amazon was compelled to make them available.

  • Protect yourself. Turn off your home assistant’s microphone when you’re not using it. You also can prune your data in your devices’ app settings, deleting stuff you don’t want to store on your phone or in the companies’ cloud servers. Or choose not to use a home assistant until the privacy regulations are ironed out.

Your kid could be limited. As schools automate procedures, they create student records with sensitive — and potentially damaging — information. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools are allowed to share certain information without getting parents’ consents. That means that an individual education plan (IEP), attendance records, a disciplinary record, prescribed medication, or even a high body mass index could be disclosed and used to unfairly disqualify your kid from opportunities, such as advanced classes, government services, or special schools.

  • Protect yourself. Schools are required to send parents information on how they handle student privacy. Find out what information your school collects, how it’s stored, who gets to see it, and what future administrators are allowed to do with it. Under FERPA, you have the right to request, correct, or add an amendment to your kid’s records through your district’s educational department.

Your kid could be humiliated. Sharing fun stuff from your life with friends is fine. But oversharing is never a good idea. When kids post inappropriate material — whether it’s a sexy selfie, an explicit photo session with a friend, an overly revealing rant, or cruel comments about others — the results can be humiliating if those posts become public or shared widely.

  • Protect yourself. Talk to your kids about keeping private things private, considering how far information can travel and how long it can last, and how they can talk to their friends about respecting one another’s personal privacy.

Your kid’s data could wind up in the wrong hands. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that involved scraping information from people’s profiles on Facebook proves that you can never be sure how companies are protecting your data, who they’re sharing it with, and what information they’re giving to third parties.

  • Protect yourself. When you sign up for a social media account, only provide the basic information needed to set up your profile. Services such as Facebook ask for a lot of information, but often it’s not required to register. When you use third-party apps, such as a downloadable quiz on Facebook, review the information the app says it’s taking from your profile. If it’s over-reaching, for example taking data it doesn’t really need or taking your friend’s data, just say no.

Click here to read the entire article by by Caroline Knorr.